Santa Catalina Island Company

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Santa Catalina Island Company, Santa Catalina Island was incorporated in October 1894 by William Banning (1858-1946) and his brothers, Joseph (1861-1920) and Hancock (1865-1925), as a subsidiary of their holdings. They had purchased the island interests from George Shatto in 1892 for $128,740. Each brother owned one third of the company’s island assets. Joseph Banning acted as onsite island owner/manager after the island purchase. The Company became the owner of record by deed dated May 7, 1896.

It soon established dependable electricity and gas supplies (water continued to be barged from the mainland) and pretty much acted as any “Company Town” would in providing as many services as it could, with little or no costs picked up by the residents or businesses. This “happy arrangement” started to unravel in the first major confrontation between the Avalon business community and the “Island Company.”

In the early years, the Bannings maintained a transportation monopoly to the island, as the Santa Catalina Island Company made major improvements on the island to attract tourists. Carpenters were brought over to improve and enlarge the company-owned Metropole Hotel (built by George Shatto); a 90-foot-diameter dance pavilion was constructed near the beach; bathhouses were built for swimmers; the island’s water and sanitation systems were expanded; fences were strung; hundreds of trees were planted, and a new wharf was built for the Bannings’ steamers. Use of many of the island’s amenities was included in the price of a round-trip ticket on their vessels. Business was good and growing. It was reported that 36,000 passengers visited the island in the eighteen months between May 1892 and December 1893. Other island resources were exploited as well. October 1, 1891 the Bannings gave their father’s old friend, Arizona-rancher Walter Vail, a cattle-grazing lease on the island, although Vail didn’t use the island for very long.

Beginning in 1893, the Bannings sold rock to the contractors constructing the San Pedro breakwater. They also developed a quarry to produce serpentine, popular for decorative furnishings and exterior building trim in downtown Los Angeles. In 1901, additional capital was added to the Santa Catalina Island Company and the Wilmington Transportation Company the Bannings brought in Hancock Banning’s brother-in-law, George Smith Patton (father of General G. S. Patton, Jr.), as a 1/7th company partner, leaving each Banning brother with 2/7th ownership. With this fresh cash infusion, a power plant for electric lighting in Avalon was built in 1901, along with a Greek Amphitheater for regular concerts by the Catalina Island Marine Band, and a scenic incline railway between Avalon and Lovers Cove. In 1905 the company held regular fireworks shows over the bay. Steamships Hermosa II and Cabrillo were added to the fleet to increase travel capacity to the island. In 1907, the year Avalon was declared by the courts to be an open port, Hancock Banning replaced his brother, Joseph, as onsite island owner/manager, although soon thereafter a general manager was hired by the company.

Since its incorporation, the company has had ten presidents and Chief Operating Officers:

SCICO buildings and assets include:

ABOUT CATALINA ISLAND COMPANY As Catalina Island’s premier resort operator, Catalina Island Company provides exceptional guest experiences, with dining establishments, hotels, a beach club, spa, entertainment venues, and more than a dozen land and sea tours and activities. The debut of the newly renovated Hotel Atwater adds to the company’s other Avalon accommodations at Mt Ada and the Pavilion Hotel. Other notable entities include Island Spa Catalina, the island’s only complete spa destination, and Descanso Beach Club, home of Catalina’s only beachside restaurant & bar, as well as the Zip Line Eco Tour, Catalina Aerial Adventure and Catalina Falconry Experience, all part of Descanso Adventures. Catalina Island Company also has an extensive portfolio of premier meeting and event venues, including oceanfront Catherine’s Terrace at Descanso Beach Club and the Avalon Boardroom in Hotel Atwater. Additionally, Catalina Island Company operates the village of Two Harbors on Catalina’s west end, including Harbor Sands, Banning House Lodge & Villas, Harbor Reef Restaurant, several campgrounds, and more. For additional information, go to [September 2020]

» Avalon, Santa Catalina Island; Phineas Banning; William Banning; Joseph Banning; Hancock Banning; Wilmington Transportation Company; Sitton, Tom. The Bannings on the Magic Isle. Santa Catalina Island, 1892-1919. California History 87(1):6-23, 64-67, 2009.

Santa Catalina Island Company organization, 1919

In the News~

August 4, 1914 [TI/Avalon]: “It is reported that the Santa Catalina Company and the Wilmington Transportation Company are now two distinct and separate companies, the latter operating under Federal license. The S.C.I.Co. owns the island, with the exception of the few lots in Avalon, and the entire business must be operated from the profits obtained by the Avalon holdings. Previously and deficiencies were adjusted between the two companies, but now each must be self-supporting.”

August 18, 1914 [TI/Avalon]: “The Santa Catalina Island Company have announced their intentions to run a pleasure resort on the island.”

May 11, 1915 [TI/Avalon]: “An approximate estimate relative to the money spent by the Wilmington Transportation Company to settle the deficiencies of the Santa Catalina Island Company in operating Avalon as a pleasure resort for the past five years, was made public last week. For 1910, a transfer of $70,000 was made; 1911, $70,000; 1912, $65,000; 1913, $35,000; 1914, $30,000. Compare the amounts of 1910, 1911 and 1912 with that of 1913 and 1914, with a city administration that collects ‘legal taxes’ for the operation of a pleasure resort as a city of the sixth class. Avalon was incorporated June 26, 1913. Immediately after that the Santa Catalina Island Company’s expenses became less; the attractions and the patronage of visitors also became less. The proportion of the decrease in business and the tax rate for the entertainment of visitors was paid by the property owners of Avalon.”

October 12, 1915 [TI/Avalon]: “A representative of the Santa Catalina Island Company, yesterday, posted ‘No Shooting’ notices at various places on the island. Two or three such notices were posted in every cove.”

November 30, 1915 [LAT]: “Smoldering ruins and ashes where beautiful Avalon stood. Over half of island city is destroyed by flames. Estimated loss of half a million dollars, wrought by possible incendiary blaze. Dramatic scene as victims flee in night. Two hundred persons are homeless as a result of a fire, supposedly of incendiary origin, which reduced more than half of Avalon to ashes early yesterday morning, causing property losses which are estimated by officials of the Santa Catalina Island Company at $500,000…”

May 24, 1916 [TI/Avalon]: “All it is needed now is a little cooperation with the Santa Catalina Island Company. And it is up to the little fellows to get into the band wagon if they intend to take part in the up-building of the new Avalon.”

May 30, 1916 [TI/Avalon]: “Work was commenced Friday to construct a new bath house for the Santa Catalina Island Company. The building is to be located at the easterly end of Crescent Avenue and it has been designed to be the most artistic structure on the waterfront.”

June 10, 1919 [LAT]: “The Los Angeles Harbor Commission has authorized J. W. Ludlow, assistant harbor engineer, and C. H. Matson, traffic manager of the harbor department, to have plans prepared for the construction of stock yards and dipping tanks to take care of the increasing shipments of cattle and sheep through this port. A number of communications have been received from the livestock companies, including the San Clemente Sheep Company, the Vail & Vickers Company and the Catalina Island Company, stating that the cattle and sheep-raising industry in the group of islands off the coast is increasing so rapidly that the facilities here are inadequate, and suggesting that the Harbor Department make provisions for handling these shipments. In view of this condition, and the increasing amount of imports of cattle from Mexico, the Harbor Commission is preparing to construct a stock yard capable of handling from fifty to one hundred cars of stock, with provisions for unlimited expansions, as the growth of the industry warrants, Mr. Ludlow announced this morning.”

September 30, 2020 [Announcement from CICO]: “PRESIDENT AND CEO OF CATALINA ISLAND COMPANY, RANDALL L. HERREL, SR., TO RETIRE. AVALON, CALIF. (SEPTEMBER 30, 2020) — Catalina Island Company announced today that Randall L. Herrel, Sr., President and Chief Executive Officer, will be retiring at the end of the year. Geoffrey C. Rusack, currently Executive Chairman of the Board, will succeed Mr. Herrel as President and CEO on January 1, 2021.

Mr. Herrel joined the Company in 2007 as Chief Operating Officer, rising to his current position of President and CEO in 2009. He serves as a member of the Company’s board of directors, is a director of the Catalina Chimes Tower Foundation board, and formerly sat on the board of the Catalina Island Museum.

Mr. Rusack stated that, “under Randy’s leadership, he and the management team developed a new vision, along with business strategies that repositioned the Company’s portfolio of hotels, restaurants, beachfront venues, camping, tours and activities on Catalina Island. Customer service at these and other Company locations was enhanced, improving the visitor experience. Quality levels at many of the Island Company’s venues were improved, also enhancing the visitor experience. Throughout the countless hours of business meetings, we have spent with Randy, we have valued not only his dedication to the Company and Catalina, but his friendship, as have so many of us in the community. We will miss him deeply!”

During Mr. Herrel’s tenure, he strengthened the company’s infrastructure to support the new business model. Information technology systems were upgraded, safer, high quality vehicles relaced older ones, employee housing was added and selected existing employee housing was improved. New management processes were implemented to enhance communication and decision making. Mr. Herrel also bolstered the management team, as well as relationships with key island stakeholders.

“It has been a tremendous honor to be the 2nd non-family CEO in the company’s history, and to have led the company through a business renaissance positioning it as a resort without walls,” said Mr. Herrel. “After serving as President and/or CEO of companies for almost 25 years, Carol and I look forward to spending more time with our family, traveling across America and serving on company and nonprofit boards. I will truly miss being part of the island community. Thank you for making me feel such a part of Catalina. The history, charm and natural beauty of the island will be part of me forever. May God bless you and your families.” ”